Welcome back kids. It’s another installment of Long Story Short. Here’s where I give a quick synopsis of an album I think is worth your time. It’s Friday, it’s overcast, and the coffee is piping hot. Sit on down and take a load off why don’t you?
Matt Lindauer : Moon Shop
As a little kid, the banjo was wholly defined by two players for me: Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog. I knew nothing about expert bluegrass players and the roots of the instrument, but Kermit played ”The Rainbow Connection” and the guy that wore the white suit and had an arrow in his head could really play as well. That was all I needed to know.
Then in 1990 Joe Satriani released a song off Flying In A Blue Dream where he played a specially built banjo and that changed everything about the banjo for me. Then two years later I heard Bela Fleck for the first time and once again my mind was blown. Brooklyn-ite Matt Lindauer may or may not have had his mind blown by Kermit, Navin R. Johnson, and Bela but he’s pushing what we know about the banjo to new heights on his album Moon Shop.
Lindauer is backmasking the instrument, mixing it with dance beats, and using it’s dulcet tones as texture and layers as much as he’s putting his expert playing in the spotlight. “Hallways”, “Playground”, and “Heart and Carpet” tell the story of the banjo in new and exciting ways, while never losing sight of the beauty and ringing voice of the stringed instrument. Though one of my favorite pieces here is the solo “Who Said That”, which is simply Lindauer and banjo stripped of electronics. It’s baroque and melancholy melody is enough to stop me in my tracks. Simply gorgeous.
Richard Pike : Australian Gangster S/T
I have not seen the series Australian Gangster, but Richard Pike’s pulse-pounding electronic score really makes me want to see it. Released recently by those fine folks over at Spun Out Of Control, Pike’s score plays out like an exquisite, darkly-lit electronic album. Gritty, tense, and brings to mind wet city streets, neon lights, and seedy places you don’t want to be after the sun drops from the sky. In fact, I’ve found myself going to this score quite a bit lately. It’s made it to the top of my fall playlist as of late.
If your bag is Michael Mann films of the 80s, Cannon Film fodder, moody synth albums, and the Drive S/T then look no further. Richard Pike has you covered.
Us and I : Loveless
Up next is the fantastic synth pop duo Us and I from Bengaluru, India. The band, which consists of vocalist/lyricist Bidisha Kesh and producer/engineer Gaurav Govilkar has made an EP of epic beauty and longing in the tradition of bands like Beach House, Melody’s Echo Chamber, early Phantogram, and Still Corners. There’s also some of that early 80s electro pop magic thrown in for good measure.
The four tracks here are exquisite heart-on-sleeve pop songs; from the grand opener “Fragile” to the melancholy psych pop of “Butterflies” to the electro clash of “Phases”, to the subtle piano ballad of album closer “First Love”. This is a windswept trip into electronic bliss and majestic pop. Loveless has everything you need to make that perfect mixtape for long stares into the abyss we call love.
Stuart Cook : Piano at 51°40’49.6″N 2°14’09.2″W
Stuart Cook’s Piano at 51°40’49.6″N 2°14’09.2″W is really quite unlike anything you’ve ever heard. If you’re looking for a quiet and serene album with tinkling piano pieces and sanguine moods, then go throw on some Van Cliburn. Stuart Cook has a completely different trip in store for you.
From Waxing Crescent Records BC page: “In April 2021 I visited a play park with my kids. There was an old, beaten up piano there. I fell in love with the sound, sight, and smell of it; something about the feel of the piano resonated with me. I recorded myself playing it, and of course captured the ambience of the location whilst doing so. All of the sounds on Piano at 51°40’49.6″N 2°14’09.2″W are taken from that single recording. The album is an exploration of microsound, chaos, and feedback. The manipulation, granularisation, and reconfiguration form the tones, timbres, and voices of each piece.” – Stuart Cook
Cook is deep into the experimental music scene, and his work out side of music as a speech and language therapist plays heavy in his work as a musician. Here, it sounds as if he’s recording underwater. A world of obscure sounds, pangs, and clicks emanate from this “piano in a park”. This is not for the part-time music lover. This is for the deep divers and heady thinkers. If you’ve got an open mind and ears, and are willing to take the ride, you’re in for a treat.